I started this blog a little more than four years ago. It was a year and a half after I moved from India to the United States. It was launched during a period of my life when I had, after years of feeling lost, begun to come back to the real me. Slowly, painfully, finally, I had answered the question that I had kept on asking myself all those years when I worked in a corporate job. “Am I an artiste?” “Am I? “Am I?”
Finally, I had said “I am.”
If you are someone who is today at this point, asking “Am I an artiste? (a writer, a painter, a dancer or something else)?” then my answer to you is “You are.” Anyone who asks that question is expressing a desire. If that question stays with you for long, if it is that one question you keep returning to, then it talks of a deep longing.
Maybe, like many of us, you weren’t lucky enough to grow up in a culture that affirms creativity. Maybe, you didn’t get encouraged or mirrored back when you took some tentative steps forward. Maybe, you got lost.
But your question has your answer inside it. Now, it is up to you to say it to yourself, to affirm it, to find your voice.
For me, starting this blog was a big step in claiming my identity as a writer, as a sensitive creative. These past few years have taught me a few things, and as the year ends, it feels like the right time to share some of them. This is not technical advice on how to start a blog. These are lessons I’ve learnt specifically through blogging and putting my voice out there. Maybe, some of this will help you in your own creative journey.
As an INFP writer or sensitive creative, you often need to throw your hat over the fence.
As I have grown older, one lesson that I have learnt about being an INFP personality type is that I often don’t know how I will feel about something until I actually do it. Of course, trying something out before committing to it is not possible in all parts of life. But there are lots of places in which it is possible.
Writing is one of them.
Before I started this blog, I had been part of several writing workshops in San Francisco. I had been trying to figure out what I wanted to write about, trying to develop material, trying to figure out my next step. I had always wanted to write fantasy and one of my dreams was to write a children’s book. But at that point in my life, I felt less and less inclined towards the world of my imagination. I had started reading a lot more nonfiction and something in me wanted to engage with concrete reality.
I knew I would write fiction one day, but right now, in this moment, something else was calling to me.
Putting my writing out there in the world felt like the next organic step. More and more, taking another writing workshop felt like a stalling tactic.
So, I decided to start writing a blog. Years earlier, I had written a blog that I had shared with just a few people and that I had quite soon stopped posting to. So, there was a real fear that this was something that could happen again. Also, I didn’t feel like I was “the kind of person who blogs.” I am a quite reserved and private person. Wouldn’t I have to share more than I was comfortable with if I started a blog?
I decided to start blogging even though I still had these doubts and reservations. It felt like something real I could do to exercise my voice, to learn to say what I thought and to learn courage.
That brought me to the next question. What would I write about?
After moving to the United States, I had also re-discovered Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person. I think I had come across it in India as well, but at that time I hadn’t really wanted to call myself a “highly sensitive person.” But this time, I read the book during a time in my life when I was again seeing how I responded to change very differently from many other people.
I had been called “too sensitive” all my life, and now again, it felt like I was at a disadvantage.
I noticed so many things about this new country and culture. But that also meant that I got overwhelmed a lot. It didn’t feel fair. Why was change always this hard for me? Were there any advantages in noticing so much, in feeling so much?
As I started to figure out my own life here in the States, these questions felt very important to me. This being sensitive, this thing that made me who I was also often made things harder. Now that I knew that Sensory Processing Sensitivity was a biological trait and a real thing, how could I look at myself differently? How could I look at this life transition differently?
The idea that I could write about my experiences as a highly sensitive person grew out of my own struggles in a new country. A blog post by Peter Messerschmidt that I read during this time served as a catalyst. It asked an important question: “Why were sensitive people so invisible in the online world, so hidden?”
By writing about my life as an HSP, I thought that I could choose to become visible, in a small but real way.
So, with this topic in mind, I began. You can see the beginnings of this blog here. The first posts I wrote did not even have an accompanying image. The smallest things felt confusing, overwhelming. Looking back, I think a lot of that overwhelm was actually the fear of putting myself out there, the fear of being judged or criticized. But I kept on, in little ways. In the beginning, I used a free platform. It was only after some years that I moved to paid hosting.
What starting the blog inspite of my misgivings and fears has taught me is that often, I need to do things first to figure out how to do them.
Once I made a decision to blog, then over the years, I learnt what I was comfortable talking about, how much I wanted to share, and exactly what I wanted to write about. Slowly, I also learnt about the technical aspects and also got technical help when I needed it. This was a result of my making the decision of beginning.
More recently, another thing I wasn’t sure about was adding interviews to the blog.
I wasn’t sure I would even like doing them.They seemed like a “have to.” But it was only once I decided and started doing interviews that I realized that I really enjoy doing them. I get to learn about people, one of my favorite things to do in the world. I get to ask my own questions. I get to interact with someone who I genuinely admire or like.
Themes emerge after you start writing about something.
Although I blog about Highly Sensitive People, the things I focus on are different from those that are the focus of other HSP-centric blogs. Being a creative person is at the core of my identity, so I write a lot about sensitive creatives and my own journey as a writer. I also write a lot about emotions because emotional intensity is that part of my HSP-ness that I often find problematic. I am also an INFP personality type and INFPs are deeply attuned to the world of their feelings, so writing about INFPs became another topic for this blog.
Just as owning the words “highly sensitive” in my writing took courage even though I had always been called “too sensitive,” owning the word “empath” was even harder for me. The word felt “too alternative,” woo-woo, a little suspect. But when I finally admitted it, I realized that being someone who absorbs other people’s emotions is at the center of the way I experience my world. Its something that I can’t possibly avoid if I want to talk honestly about what it means to be an HSP.
It’s only when I started owning this word that I started talking about the real heart of my life.
These themes – being a sensitive creative, empath and INFP – emerged only after I had been writing for some time. They appeared gradually, growing by themselves. I didn’t think them up in advance. I didn’t know that these were the things I was going to write about when I started four years ago. As someone who is deeply interested in the inner life, when I started working with my dreams and learning about Jungian depth psychology, the topic of dreams became another branch of this blog. I figured that sensitive creatives like me would be interested in this topic just like I was.
This blog took its form slowly and grew like a plant.
So will yours, when you begin it. At first, even if you start with a broad topic, you will not know the exact shape and contours of your blog. But every budding interest, every curiosity you follow into the woods, every question you try to answer in your own life will add to its size. Like me, you will wonder if you are going off topic, whether you should really narrow things down? But like me, you will realize that these different, yet related things are what gives life and interest to your blogging. Isn’t that what blogs are meant to be, a living entity, not a confined space, a place from which all exploring starts?
Then, your blog, like your life, will look like you and belong to you.
That’s a lesson that I am still learning, that I can choose to create in any way. It’s okay to have a blog with interviews or without interviews. It’s okay to post ten times a month or once a month. It’s okay to write about mindfulness or alternative healing as beneficial things for highly sensitive people or instead to write about dream work as a tool to delve into our ever-changing inner lives.
As something that we create, a blog can be something we breathe life into in our own, unique way.
Engaging with the world brings both good and bad things.
Like everyone else, the thing I was most scared of when I started blogging was being criticized and judged. What if I shared something personal or important to me and it wasn’t received? What if I wrote something that I believed then but then didn’t believe later? What if I was misunderstood or misread? What if I actually made mistakes?
When I thought about these things, I didn’t focus much on the positive side, things that I have also ended up gaining through blogging. For example: I didn’t think about how putting my writing out there would help solidify my identity as a writer. Before I started blogging, I wanted to become a writer. But when I started blogging, I started calling myself a writer. When I guest blogged on other websites, such as Tiny Buddha or Sensitive Evolution, in the little bios that accompanied those pieces, I started calling myself a writer.
At first, I felt fake and unsure of myself.
Could I simply start owning an identity I was growing into? Could I start saying that I was something I wanted to be?
Then, little by little, calling myself a writer and being a writer started feeling organic. Whenever I wrote a guest post that resonated, I often got emails from readers. They told me about what spoke to them, about their own lives and experiences, about the fact that they had felt like reaching out. That felt validating. I had said something and someone had listened.
Wasn’t this what being a writer was about, saying what you thought, releasing it into the world and it being caught by someone on the opposite shore?
This was, wasn’t it?
Over the years, with this two-way movement, this starting to own being a “writer” myself and then people reaching out in response to something I wrote, my identity as a writer grew.
Over the last few years, this has led to more growth and movement. This year, one of my blogging highlights was being featured on Lauren Sapala’s blog. I have followed her website and admired her work for several years and it was delightful to have my blog featured on her website.
On the flip side, reaching out into the world also brought some of those rejections and murky interactions that I was so afraid of.
Some of these have, in the end, turned out to be helpful. For example: One of the first people I reached out to for an interview was a bodyworker who thought that her work wasn’t a good fit with what I was writing about. She also told me that she was surprised and disappointed by a quote that I had used in an online piece. The piece was called Thoughts on Sensitivity and the quote that I had used was by Alan Watts: “Wonder is not a disease. Wonder, and its expression in poetry and the arts, are among the most important things which seem to distinguish men from other animals, and intelligent and sensitive people from morons.”
She did not like that I had used a quote that talked about human beings but said “men.”
Obviously, this was a deep value for her, not using words that marginalized women. At first, when I got this feedback, I was taken aback. I replied politely, but inside I was a little shaken. I thought she had taken this quote too personally and was judging me based on a quote that I had used only for the essence of what it was conveying. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what we write can be read in many different ways. Although I didn’t take out that quote from that piece (because I think it serves its purpose), from that day on, I have always thought about how something might be interpreted when I use quotes. I am careful to not include words that deny women’s humanity. I am a woman too, and I understand what discrimination means.
So, reaching out into the world, even when it didn’t feel pleasant at first, helped me in the long run. It helped me think about the power of words and about what writers do.
Interactions like these were vulnerable but helpful. But there were also a few not-so-fun interactions. For example: Someone found me through a guest blog I wrote and wanted me to write for their website. In their first email, this person laid down the rules. I was not going to be paid till they started making money (they weren’t making any at this point). He also wrote about some personal problems he was having in this first, introductory email.
The email had felt a bit off, but I was also looking for freelance work, so it also felt like a synchronicity. But I talked with some friends and they all advised me to reply in a direct manner asking what the payment plan for me was and not getting hooked in by what felt to them like a sob story.
I followed their advice, and the next email I got turned out to be a big rant. This person was angry that I had even dared to ask for a share or dared question them in any way. This was their project, their thing, and I was just meant to be a worker.
I felt personally attacked and the rescuer in me wondered if I had done something legitimately wrong. But better sense prevailed, and this small but toxic interaction and how under-attack it made me feel showed me that I had more inner work to do.
It was not that I had “attracted” a certain kind of person. It was just that when you put yourself out in the world, you will find all sorts of people. I had already had many wonderful interactions with readers. Now, here was something different and problematic.
This was that kind of something I hadn’t been ready for when I started blogging. But really, this was the territory, this was the learning that I needed.
In the end, putting myself out there was about learning to be okay no matter what. It was about listening to my own gut feeling and learning discernment. It was about using my voice, even if that voice threatened someone. Because in the end, my voice guards me, and the years that I gave it up, I left myself unguarded, undefended.
These are just a few of the things that blogging has taught me, among many other things.
I have learnt that you can make it your own creative space, that there are no rules, that in fact you can make your own rules. Its been a way to expand and grow, to interact with many kindred souls (and a few challenging ones).
It has taught me lessons about writing and lessons about me.
If you are wondering whether blogging is for you, then maybe put a toe in, feel the water and try it out? The trying will lead you to other things, to concrete feedback, to the information you need to help make up your mind.